It does not seem to be like the don't tell policy in the US military. There are many who neither make all the efforts to specifically hide it nor say it aloud. The skating community is not the biggest community in the world and people tend to know each other well. Yet, the elephants do not necessarily seem to damage their careers.
Elephants usually don't damage people's careers as long as they're ignored. It's when someone says, "I have an elephant" that the problems start.
I find that elephants make wonderful pets. I've had the most luxurious bathing experiences ever since bringing 2 elephants into my household. Their trunks have officially replaced my shower head. Very highly recommended.
Well for what is worth, Toller Cranston (who was a very controversial skater here in Canada) was ahead of his time and did not mind causing an uproar in the skating world. The fans loved it. Toller is still one Canada's great male figure skating legends and helped to break the mold in men's figure skating in his day. Johnny Weir is no different and definitely adds drama to the sport.
I wondered whether Toller was controversial in Canada. Interesting to hear about his reputation at the time, Ladskater.
Certainly he did Canada proud, with his long string of national championships and his Olympic bronze. More than that, he can probably be considered, along with John Curry, one of the two pillars of modern men's skating. These two rivals were both as athletic as they were artistic, in command of their jumps as well as musically expressive. Toller's problem was mainly his weakness in school figures, as I recall. I think he was something like ninth after school figures in the '76 Olympics, but he dramatically pulled himself up to a bronze medal after the long program. The efforts of Curry and Cranston (and I'm sure that each thought of the other as his main competition) made the men's event, to my mind, one of the most memorable in Olympic history. (In fact, I think I'll go check the "great rivalries" thread to see if their names have been mentioned.)
I can see why one might compare Toller to Johnny in terms of the bohemian quality both bring to skating, but so far Toller has had more of an impact. For one thing, as several of us have said, during his time he was indeed a pathfinder who really advanced the discipline of men's skating. For another, he spent many years as a professional skater, both in televised events and in ice shows, including one in which he headlined. I hope Johnny has an equally long and illustrious career, but for now he hasn't reached that level of consistency.
As for whether Weir's particular outrageous style is damaging to skating, I can't see that it is. A lot of people who are down on skating think the whole sport is a bit on the frilly side, I'm afraid, and even if Johnny started skating in a Michael Weiss muscle shirt, they'd continue to think that way. Preconceptions are hard to overcome. One great thing about TV dance shows like Dancing with the Stars is that people who were not previously exposed to dancing come to see that it's got strength and athleticism as well as sequins. They might start realizing that this is also true of skating. (A fan can dream!) I personally think that Maksim Chmerkovsky will turn out to be a boon to figure skating. (The fact that Evan Lysacek is currently on the show can't hurt, either!) But I confess I'm greatly disturbed by the lack of television coverage in the U.S. IceNetwork? What casual couch potato is going to come across that? We need to be on Wide World of Sports, flanked by auto racing and downhill skiing. How'd the USFSA and the ISU let major network coverage slip away?